Liverpool for most Americans, I think, makes them think of one thing; the Beatles. And that’s it. My trip and study to Liverpool involved nothing of the Beatles. I love the Beatles, but I can listen to them anywhere. The following is the written portion of a group presentation I participated in. I was exceptionally lucky to be able to work with two phenomenal individuals, both younger than me, but full of a different and educated perspective than myself, and, incidentally both majoring in International Studies. Guy grew up in Detroit and is working on his degree in Chicago. Martha grew up in Wisconsin and is working on her degree in Duluth, Minnesota. We all expressed amazement in how it all fell together so well for us. The only thing that took some coaxing was our topic, but once we found it, all went without a hiccup for the research and experience. (Martha got the nasty cold that was going around right before we had to present, on top of her migraine. No fun, but she is tough.)
July 8, 2009
Leadership Training Program
Patterson, Leisch, Roper
Art: Address, Reflect, Influence, Change
Guy Patterson aka He’s not a pimp, but he be mac-in’**
You can bring about change in a community in a variety of ways. Upon our studies here at the University of Liverpool in the past 2 weeks, we found it most interesting to research how visual and fine arts affect local communities across the world politically. Upon deciding on what we would research, we took a look at a prime example, the Heidelberg Project, in Detroit, Michigan.
A local artist of Detroit, Tyree Guyton, started the Heidelberg Project in 1986. He transformed his old neighborhood in which he grew up into a mass art project consisting of the vacant houses and rubbish left in the neighborhood. Guyton thought that Detroit has never been right since the Riots in the 1960’s.
Today the project is still growing and takes up about a two city block radius of houses, trees, cars, and discarded objects Guyton found that have been transformed into huge monuments and sculptures. This was Guyton’s way of cleaning up the neighborhood he felt connected to, to rebuild the structure of under-resourced communities and welcome people from all over.
We found similarities in the interviews of all of our artist participants in the point that art is created to help people better understand the world around them. Like one of our interviewees, local Liverpool playwright/poet, Patrick said, “Art should be used to help people understand things that cannot be verbally articulated”.
Our research consists of interviews from local artists in Liverpool such as Amish, Patrick, and Bea, whose family names are not released. They represent the fine and visual branches of art and they have given their synopsis of how their work has brought on change as well as their own personal opinions of why and how art can produce political change and awareness.
Based on our own personal interests, as well as related studies at our Universities in the states, we decided on the topic of Arts addressing, reflecting and influencing change. We already had connections and contact information for Bea and Patrick so we were able to email both of them and set up interviews. Edie-Marie was allocated the responsibility of contacting and interviewing Patrick and Bea, having been the person to get their contact information while touring through Toxteth as well as having closely matched areas of study. Martha sought out local museums and artists, the perfect candidate because she is working on a minor in art and is familiar with the terminology and such. She used the staff at the Fact to contact other local artists, looking for more on the visual arts verses the performing arts perspective of Bea and Patrick; following through with the artist and curator, Amish, at The Royal Standard Studio Gallery. Guy assisted both Martha and Edie-Marie with the interviews, was the initial source of the Heidelberg project, as well as responsible for researching it further.
We approached these artist interviews with the following questions:
1) What medium do you use most for your art and why did you choose it?
2) How does art influence change, or does it merely reflect what is happening?
3) What political/social issues have you addressed in your art?
4) What local changes have you seen in your lifetime and in what ways was art connected?
5) What do you think would happen with movements and change if the arts were not a part of it?
6) What do you know of the Heidelberg project?
7) How does it compare with local politically charged art you’ve seen?
The thought of finding local artists and artwork seemed impossible at the onset of the project, but by simply stumbling upon artists at the FACT they fell into my hands. I met Joshua who was working at the FACT bookstore, who turned out to be a gallery coordinator for Red Wire (a local studio/gallery). He in turn connected me with Hamish at The Royal Standard, who Guy and myself went on to interview.
After speaking with Hamish at The Royal Standard studio gallery I decided to pursue two conceptual works that were based out of the gallery. He had provided me with a base of information and I researched online from that point. I was incredibly intrigued and happily surprised with the projects titled “Mr. Democracy,” by Oliver Walker and “Mobile Sports Foundation,” by Townley and Bradby. Both projects were interactive, politically driven and based here in Liverpool.
Our second day of our leadership-training program proved fated for this presentation. When we visited the Caribbean Community Centre in Toxteth, I met Patrick, playwright and poet. Being an aspiring writer myself I ended up talking with him for most of the time there and exchanging contact information. Later that day we went to the Kuumbia house also in Toxteth so we could listen in on council meetings. Here Martha and I met Bea who works in film, and engaged in conversation with her primarily to get some perspective on women’s issues that always exist with all the social problems we were being shown, though they aren’t mentioned. It bothered me that in the course content, women were a non-entity, so I was looking for outside sources supplemental to the content already provided when I was introduced to Bea, which is how our group was able to have her contact information as well.
Patrick sees and believes art is more in the realm addressing political and social situations, bringing to light issues and making people aware. From this change can and does occur, but the arts role is communication and reflection. His focus is presenting information in an accessible way through his plays and poetry.
Bea immediately expressed that art absolutely completes all three, addressing, reflecting and influencing change. She saw a significant positive change from the Capitol of Culture for local artists in that it built and boosted the art markets, set up a foundation for the art community that remained with the bigger, gimmicky projects were gone. She had not heard of the Heidelberg project but had participated in many similar art forms in the use of space, for example the building behind the Kuumbia house is used to show films and during the US 2008 president election a picture of Obama was projected on the building for a while. She also facilitates the Night Art Trail in Liverpool that occurs in the fall/winter time. It creates an art based self-guided tour of Liverpool with the street lamps projecting slides of art on the streets.
Art is an amazing way to experience a new place and we really enjoyed all the people we were able to meet with in the process of preparing and researching this presentation. We went in a bit naïve in our idealism of art as a force for movements, political and social change. However, after looking at different artists in Liverpool and the case study of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, while we were able to retain the positives we had of arts capabilities but add to it the realities involved. As art pushes society, society pushes back, and reflects itself in art.
**(please note, Guy is a serious student, he was just using Martha’s Macbook at the time of composition. I was reprimanded for sending a copy to our Professor with his rough-draft title on it. We sent a corrected one. Tee hee, oops. And sorry again, Guy–but I still love it!)